Earlier this fall, the titles of some of UW Environment’s most beloved teachers changed overnight. On September 16th, the titles of eight instructors, which had previously ended with the word “lecturer,” now end with “teaching professor.” This shift in title, however, changed more than just their email signatures.

This transition builds on earlier efforts to provide more stability for teaching faculty, including a limit on the number of annual contracts allowed before a multi-year contract must be pursued. The title changes come along with potential increases in contract lengths (up to 10 years, depending on the position) and also gives lecturers the same voting rights as other members of the professoriate. In the UW’s shared governance model, faculty members vote on a number of important matters, including merit increases, new appointments and reappointments, and now teaching professors’ voices are included in these votes.

“The biggest thing for me is that you now feel like you’re a full part of the faculty,” said Earth and Space Sciences Teaching Professor Terry Swanson. “Before, during certain executive decisions, the lecturers would be asked to leave. Now we’ll be involved in all aspects of the hierarchy. This promotion makes me feel included in the faculty as a whole.”

When sharing the legislation, the Faculty Senate noted that the university has broadened the core faculty to include some specialized classes of faculty members — notably the research professors, who are hired and promoted on the basis of their research, and the lecturers, who are hired and promoted on the basis of their teaching. In their proposal, the Senate noted that “for nearly a decade, the Faculty Senate has been working to improve the working conditions of our teaching faculty. Now we believe it’s time to take another step in that direction, by retitling most of our full time lecturers with professorial ranks and titles.”

“This is another step toward equity, as teaching faculty are more likely to be women and people of color,” said Kristi Straus, Associate Teaching Professor and Associate Director of Program on the Environment. “This is an important way of signalling that the UW values the contributions we make to the University.” 

The eight UW Environment faculty with new Teaching Professor titles are:

José Guzmán, Assistant Teaching Professor, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences Jose Guzman
Steven Walters, Associate Teaching Professor, Earth and Space Sciences
Kristi Straus, Associate Teaching Professor, Program on the Environment
P. Sean McDonald, Associate Teaching Professor, Program on the Environment
Terry Swanson, Teaching Professor, Earth and Space Sciences
Mikelle Nuwer, Associate Teaching Professor, Oceanography
Brian Collins, Associate Teaching Professor, Earth and Space Sciences
Kathy Troost, Associate Teaching Professor, Earth and Space Sciences Kathy Troost


“The College is blessed with a number of brilliant teaching professors,” said Dean Lisa J. Graumlich. “It is more than appropriate that they carry the title of professor. It will provide many opportunities for them to be yet more engaged in the governance of the College — and I look forward to their participation.”

This group includes a UW Environment teaching award winner (Guzmán), and three University of Washington Distinguished Teaching Awards (Guzmán, Straus, Swanson). You can learn more about Straus’ Sustainable Choices class or Swanson’s Introduction to Geology & Societal Impacts class through the videos below.